Archive for January, 2009

Network Infrastructure for Shared Print Collections

Friday, January 30th, 2009 by Constance

At the ALA Midwinter conference last week, I had the opportunity to talk with several groups about some work that OCLC Research has taken up in the area of distributed print archiving.  Briefly, we are looking at various ‘lightweight’ approaches to enabling more effective disclosure of institutional print archiving commitments. The MARC 583 Action Note (for which a rich controlled vocabulary already exists) has emerged as a potential vehicle for this, not least because it is already indexed and displayed in a variety of OCLC management systems that are widely deployed across the library community.

As noted in a recent report on policy frameworks for shared print collections (which Lorcan mentioned here), the absence of any network infrastructure for disclosing archiving commitments is seriously hampering efforts to manage print collections as a collective resource.   And this is why I was making the rounds at Midwinter to get input from various key constituencies on a proposed solution based on use of the MARC 583.  Because there was general interest in the slides from presentations at the ALCTS CCDO, PAIG and CONSER gatherings, I’ve posted them on slideshare.

As we move forward with this work, we’ll continue to consult broadly with collection managers, preservation administrators, and the library cataloging community — but in a focused and pragmatic fashion, as we’re aiming to support disclosure of archiving commitments in WorldCat before midyear.  There’s nothing like a fire at your back to keep you moving forward…

Tried but not yet trusted

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 by John

Reputation and trust are closely related and hard won. Two snippets dealing with the evolving landscape of reputation capital in universities caught my eye in this week’s Times Higher. The first relates to the proposed European Reference Index for the Humanities, funded by the European Science Foundation, which had announced it would grade journals into categories A (‘high-ranking international publications’), B (‘standard international publications’) and C (‘publications of local/regional significance’). Rather as has happened in Australia whose league table of journals I mentioned in a previous post, there has been opposition to this idea – chiefly from academic editors of journals. So many of them have now threatened to boycott the index that the steering committee has been forced to drop the idea of the classification. It is doing so reluctantly, claiming that the classification was never intended to denote hierarchy. This might be indicative of a certain naïveté, or it may reveal, ironically, just how deep the concern about reputational damage potentially caused by rankings now runs, particularly in the UK where bibliometric measures of various kinds are being considered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for the new Research Excellence Framework (REF). Academics worry about any new measure which might be tossed into the bibliometric mix – and it is rather difficult to see how publication in a journal deemed of important local/regional significance but explicitly not of high-ranking international significance is a category judgement rather than a value judgement.

The second reveals that Evidence, a UK data analysis consultancy which has been working with HEFCE as it designs the REF, has been acquired by Thomson Reuters with whom it previously had a ‘strategic alliance’. Since HEFCE was making use of Evidence to test the value of Thomson Reuters’ Web of Knowledge data relative to Elsevier’s SCOPUS data for the purposes of bibliometric analysis, it seems rather like a clear case of gamekeeper turned poacher. Evidence reject this, but HEFCE have confirmed that Evidence will now be confined to the use of Web of Science data, and

we will conduct an in-house analysis to compare the databases … taking independent external advice as we do this.

This sounds rather like an unexpected and probably unwelcome cost increase, but it is probably wise of HEFCE to do so. Employ a company to provide an impartial report upon its own products? That could tarnish its own reputation. As the landscape continues to shift, there are a few authoritative bodies whose products or services are coming to be trusted – albeit very cautiously in some cases. The Times Higher list of the world’s top 200 universities is one. The Shanghai Jiao Tong University index is another. University funding agencies cannot risk losing the trust of the academic community whose funding they administer. But ERIH’s task of earning the trust of European humanities researchers must now be a difficult one.

The Future of Museums

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by Günter

I usually make plans to read a report or two on Fridays, and while it doesn’t always work out that way, this Friday I managed to delve into “Museums & Society 2034: Trends and Potential Futures,” issued by the Center for the Future of Museums (an initiative of AAM). The report correlates larger societal, economical and technological trends to their potential impact on museums, and makes a good Friday afternoon read. While Elizabeth Merritt (Founding Director of the Center) warns us that the report contemplates “potentially dark futures,” I found surprisingly little in the report that would make me believe that I had to radically alter my course, were I a museum director or a curator.

Sure, there are threats, but navigated correctly, the scenarios resolve by opening up a role for museums that only they are uniquely poised to fill – the future is bound to be convenient! Here are some quotes from the sections highlighted in blue by the report which cap the discussion of issues:

  • Dealing with a multiethnic society? “Museums will be primary sites for civic dialogues about community interests and the policies that affect communities.”
  • Dealing with economic instability? “Museums are stable oases in the midst of turmoil. Building on their tradition of offering low-cost or free access and programming, museums play an even greater role in sustaining the well-being of their communities during a prolonged downturn.”
  • Dealing with an increasingly digital and virtual society? “The prevalence of the digital, virtual world raises public awareness of the increasingly rare world of non-digital assets that help tell the story of how humans got where we are.”
  • While I believe that any of these statements could be true now or in the future, I would have preferred if the report left us to ponder some of the more provocative and open-ended observations, such as…

    Already, Google, YouTube and Flickr have established themselves as museums of the digital world and are actively trying to redefine the idea of curating content.

    One of the key challenges I see for museums, and all cultural heritage organizations for that matter, is that they will have to move from a world where they are at the center of the universe to a world where their audience of potential users is at the center of the universe. The key question won’t be: how can I get more people through my door or to my website? The key question will be: how can I get my museum to the place where most people want to interact with my materials?

    Anybody who has grown up on Amazon will not be satisfied with the limited view of cultural content even the largest organizations offer. Traveling exhibits composed of loans from different sources may continue to tantalize a physical audience, but, as the report points out, that audience will be outnumbered by its virtual counterpart. How will museums overcome their fear of dilution of brand and work together to establish compelling, sustainable online resources spanning many different institutions? Today, the puddles of content on institutional websites may still seem exciting and compelling. Tomorrow, they will look irrelevant and be bypassed.

    The future of information, just as the future of museums, lies in its increasing interconnectedness. The report considers museums as individual institutions, whereas I believe by 2034, museums will have needed to learn to act as a community, or risk irrelevance in the face of other purveyors of content.

    I am looking forward to the more in-depth whitepaper promised for later this year. Despite my quibbles, this report clearly did its job – it got me to think!

    The People and the Commons

    Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Günter

    The Flickr Commons is a remarkable project in many ways, and we’ve certainly followed its birth and progress closely on hangingtogether (see here, here, here, here and here.) Just in case you need a reminder of why the Commons is remarkable, I ask you to consider the following numbers from the LC Flickr Pilot Project report [pdf], where you can find even more compelling statistics.

  • As of October 23, 2008, there have been 10.4 million views of the photos on Flickr.
    79% of the 4,615 photos have been made a “favorite” (i.e., are incorporated into personal Flickr collections).
  • Over 15,000 Flickr members have chosen to make the Library of Congress a “contact,” creating a photostream of Library images on their own accounts.
  • 67,176 tags were added by 2,518 unique Flickr accounts.
  • 4,548 of the 4,615 photos have at least one community-provided tag.
  • Average monthly visits to all PPOC [Prints & Photographs Online Catalog] Web pages rose 20% over the five month period of January-May 2008, compared to the same period in 2007.
  • The report recommended that “this experiment in Web 2.0 cease to be characterized as a pilot and evolve to an expanded involvement in this growing community.” That was October 30th 2008. In December, Yahoo and Flickr laid off George Oates, the heart and soul of the Commons. In all of my interactions with Commons participants, it has always been quite clear to me how much they cherish their relationship with George, and what a pivotal role she has played in making the Commons a success. For a moment there, I feared that one of my favorite projects of 2008 might grind to a premature and unfortunate halt.

    And then another remarkable thing happened. Within days of the news that George wouldn’t be around to steer the Commons anymore, the Flickr community decided to highlight the importance of the Commons to them and their interests through the creation of a Flickr Commons Group. I didn’t find any reference to George’s departure in my cursory reading of posts on the group page – maybe I am embuing its arrival with a meaning that didn’t exist to its founders, but even as a coincidence, the way the community is now claiming and celebrating these collections is remarkable.

    My colleague Eric Childress just pointed out that there is now also a blog called Indicommons, which intentionally extends the Flickr group’s ability to sift through the amazing treasure-trove of Commons images, and comment on them. For a timely example, look at the entry which brings together all the inauguration-related images from the Commons.

    The Flickr Commons group and Indicommons was created by individuals outside of contributing institutions, but all of the contributors have been invited to use these venues as a platform to communicate with their most fervent users, and they all seem to have joined in. Some of the folks on Indicommons have even partnered with Commons institutions to create additional tools for the Flickr Commons (see the batch date changer for contributors, and these Power Feeds for Commons aficionados.)

    I guess it’s a brand-new day. This certainly isn’t your mother’s cultural heritage community anymore. And this isn’t your mother’s audience anymore, either. If you’d like to hear an interview on BBC with Anna Graf, one of the movers-and-shakers behind the Group and Indicommons, check here [mp3]. As much as George was the heart and soul of the Commons, the greatest tribute to her achievement may be that the future of the Commons rests with the People, and the People are doing their part to carry it forward.

    Kudos to all of those who took the initiative to create the Group and Indicommons!

    The Learning Curve – OCLC Bootcamp

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 by Jason

    [Jason Lee is the very first Minority Librarian Fellow at OCLC, and will be rotating through Member Services, OCLC Research, and Digital Services. During her tenure at OCLC, she's agreed to blog with us here. Welcome, Jason!]

    “I don’t respond well to ‘out of bandwidth’ requests”

    This is probably my favorite paraphrased sound bite to date since arriving at OCLC at the beginning of January. OCLC’s numerous divisions often seem to be driven in large part by a wealth of human resources that can overwhelm at times. For instance, I remember panicking slightly at the onslaught of emails I received once my computer station was up and running, particularly with reference to returning every introduction. Indeed, for several days all I could think was, “Please let me remember this person’s name…” as someone approached me. Of course I also initially worried that I would be ideologically segregated from other employees, likely stigmatized by the ‘Minority” portion of my job title and immediately set to work on issues or topics surrounding diversity and Ethnic Studies. I remember laughing recently with a Librarian friend of color in a two-year residency program about this expectation of expertise because of race, as it is something we regard with humor, more than anything else. Whenever asked about anything diversity-related, we are probably thinking, “I don’t know why they are asking me to work on this…I studied English Lit…..”

    Onto my first week at OCLC, which was largely orientation-based and included more Human Resources-related training modules than I have ever experienced with a new employer, as well as introductions to several key governing members of the Fellowship Committee. One of my first impressions of OCLC was that everyone was funny and helpful and I was greeted warmly by many folks in Research and in Member Services. Additionally in my second week, overviews of core functional processes related to governance, infrastructure, and project management began to immerse me more fully into the workings of my new environment. As the weeks have progressed, I’ve come to really value OCLC’s continued commitment to staff development, building a solid and evolving technological infrastructure, and to the collaborative aspect of information discovery.

    One of the caveats of working in large organizations serving a variety of constituents and interest groups is that communication can sometimes be lost or unfocused, and the higher on the totem pole a staff member is (regardless of their relevance) the more input they have. So far I’ve found the opposite at OCLC. It seems that most everyone contributes in some way or bears part of the responsibility and pressure of keeping ahead of the changes in the marketplace and delivering on cutting-edge services. As I get further along in this experience, I hope to better understand how value gets defined by member institutions and in what ways and how effectively OCLC responds to their needs.

    That said, I am also looking forward to more social time with the Friday Club (my first week’s experience at Dublin Village Tavern was plum) and to getting to the cafeteria early enough on Free Donut Fridays to get the premium glazed, and especially to meeting everyone at the San Mateo office in February. I admit, I am particularly looking forward to the warmer weather in California, as I was not aware before moving to Ohio that the inside of my nose could actually freeze. Since I’ve been out here I’ve adopted new criteria for cold, laughing as my friends back home lament a nightly drop in temperature to a ‘brisk’ 40 degrees. Many of them would perish in the minus-8 conditions that hit us last week, although I can’t say I would want to be in Los Angeles right now, as my mother tells me they are all sweltering from a mid-January heat wave with temperatures in the nineties. Actually, that’s a lie. I’d kill to be in a tank top right now, sitting in front of the fan with a Pinkberry frozen yogurt :-)

    Change over time

    Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 by Merrilee

    Sometimes, it’s not easy to what is changing, or what the pace of change is. Today is a day when I can see pretty clearly what has changed over the last 8 years (and no, this is not a posting about politics).

    Today’s US Presidential inauguration was marked by bandwidth issues.

    Would cell networks hold up under the strain of phone calls, text messaging, and other “smartphone” usage? (They networks seemed to have performed well, but probably due to temporary upgrades.)

    Would the internet support the level of video streaming that was called for all day long? (It did, kind of, but only because it was planned for. One such provider, Akamai, reported that more than 7 million video streams were being watched at 12:15 p.m. Eastern time.)

    Would the internet support other types of heavy usage? Yes. The inauguration has been recorded and relayed in all kinds of ways, from Twitter, to Flickr, to Facebook status updates, to blog postings, to emails going back and forth — a lot of effort has been put into recording the events and emotions of the day. Much of that effort has been expended by citizens, not by journalists. Much of the recording has been done via mobile devices.

    Eight years ago, we were not concerned with streaming video. Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook did not exist. Camera phones were a rarity, and not the ubiquitous commodity they are today. Blogging was an activity reserved for somebodys, not everybodys.

    Today is a good moment to sit back and reflect on change, the rate of change, and to think about what the next eight years might bring. What needs will we need to meet in the future?

    Moving library services into research-flows

    Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 by Constance

    I’m pleased to announce the publication of the latest title in our series of white papers, an expert literature review on disciplinary research behaviors that we commissioned from Carole Palmer, professor in the Graduate School of Library & Information Science at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.  With colleagues in the Center for Informatics Research in Science & Scholarship (CIRSS), Carole has produced a splendid report synthesizing decades of literature on scholarly information practices and highlighting implications for library service development.  It’s a significant piece of work that deserves a wide readership, particularly within the research library community, where there is much discussion about where local development resources should be directed.

    I was privileged to have the opportunity to draft the scope of work for this report and read (and comment on) successive iterations of the text.  In the course of doing so, I created a kind of companion piece:  a list of the sources cited in the report that are included in WorldCat.  I did this as an experiment, as I was interested to know how much of the literature was indexed in the WorldCat database.  Most of it is.  The advantage of producing this list in WorldCat is that the citations link directly to information about library holdings.  So, if you are actually interested to read the source material, it is relatively easy to identify potential suppliers.  Much of the literature on the topic of ‘information work’ is quite dense and it is for this reason that we invited Carole and her colleagues to provide a concise synthesis. It will be interesting to see what kind of readership this report (and the referenceable WorldCat bibliography) attracts.

    Metadata Creation Workflows

    Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 by Karen

    An RLG Partner working group that I facilitated has completed its analysis of the 134 responses from 67 RLG partners to a survey conducted in October-November 2008.  What We’ve Learned from the RLG Partners Metadata Creation Workflows Survey (173K/23 pp.) has just been released. Among the findings:

    •    The working group had hoped that the survey would point to tools and resources for streamlining metadata workflows that might be shared within the RLG Partnership and that could be adapted locally. However, survey responses suggest that the tools being used are very localized, and no one tool kit is being used
    •    Among those who create both MARC and non-MARC metadata, two-thirds used the same staff. Furthermore, 80% reported that creating non-MARC metadata was part of their “routine workflows.”
    •    Although non-MARC metadata creation is considered “routine”, less than half have training programs for teaching staff how to create metadata.
    •    A major hurdle that may need to be overcome is the assumption that people searching for resources will start with the local website, repository, catalog – instead of on the Web (where most people start, according to the research into discovery practices).
    •    The working group was reassured that libraries are exposing their data in multiple ways. A relatively high percentage exposes metadata through union catalogs, crawlers like Google, Yahoo, MSN, and OAI-PMH harvesters.
    •    The differences in staffing patterns for MARC and non-MARC metadata creation may indicate that creating non-MARC metadata in fact is not routine.
    •    Slightly more than half of respondents reported that they do not have routine procedures for maintaining and updating non-MARC metadata. Is non-MARC metadata maintenance hindered by the lack of widely available tools or the distributed environment in which non-MARC metadata is created?

    Respondents’ comments indicate that that this is still a fluid time in our profession and that organizations are in flux, too. Several noted that they were just developing tools or were in the process of restructuring their workflows. The working group identified several questions for possible future research.

    We are grateful to all the RLG Partner staff who took the time to respond to the survey. On a personal note, I found it a true delight to work with: Leighann Ayers (U. Michigan), Beth Picknally Camden (U. Pennsylvania), Lisa German (Penn State), Peggy Johnson (U. Minnesota), and Caroline Miller (UCLA).  I hope you enjoy looking through the results for yourselves! Comments welcome!

    Libraries versus IT

    Friday, January 16th, 2009 by Merrilee

    The Chronicle of Higher Education has a podcast series called, Tech Therapy. Episode 33, Libraries vs. IT Departments must have aired last fall, but only came to my attention this week. The discussion is interesting; the two speakers go over not only the differences between libraries and IT departments in a campus environment, but also the similarities. It’s an interesting listen, at only 13 minutes. I think the comparisons could work for archives versus IT, and maybe even museums versus IT (I’m less familiar with that area).

    There are no solutions posed for bridging the gap, which is too bad. What are your solutions for getting libraries and IT departments onto the same page?

    I found the discussion interesting and thought provoking, and I’m going to add Tech Therapy to my ever-growing list of podcasts!

    The Google Book Settlement – what does it mean for the rest of us?

    Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 by Ricky

    As many do, I looked for a good read over the holidays. Since I was in the office most the time, instead of relaxing by the hearth, and since it was REALLY quiet here, I selected the Google Book Settlement.
    Now I’m not a lawyer (and I’ve had that confirmed by our folks in legal) and not even a little lawyer-like, but I read the settlement agreement, most of the appendices (I mean, really, at some point do even the lawyers say, I am not going to read that one!?), and the three library-registry agreements and I tried to note the bits that matter to libraries. (That’s boiling down about 320 pages into a 4 1/2 page summary, so I’ve left out a bit of detail.)
    The Google Book Settlement is a deal between Google and the APA and the Authors Guild, but it significantly impacts the libraries that have already been Google Library Partners and those that may yet want to join in the Google digitization effort. Those libraries will have their counsel take a much deeper look at all the documentation and decide what’s best for them.
    But for those of us watching from the sidelines, I thought it might be helpful to share my distillation [pdf 68 KB].
    I also read a lot of the commentary on the settlement (which, by the way, won’t be approved until June 2009, at the earliest) and have included some of the most significant commentary on our Public/Private Mass Digitization Agreements resource list. There are two new sections, Google Book Search Settlement (for the official documentation) and Google Book Search Settlement — Commentary. As always, if you have something to add to the list, use the suggest-an-addition link on that page.
    Gee, I really know how to rock the holidays, huh?